Hearing a childhood obesity diagnosis—or even a warning that a child is at risk—can be devastating for a parent. But there are many ways you can work toward reversing or preventing childhood obesity. In doing so, you'll lower your child's risk of serious health consequences. And it's likely, too, that your entire family will benefit from the lifestyle changes you put in place.
Three Steps to Tackling Childhood Obesity
Discuss your child's needs with his doctor. She may refer you to a behavior-management or counseling program that addresses the many unique causes of obesity. At home, take a three-pronged approach. Your child needs your help to improve his eating habits, his activity level, and probably his self-esteem too.
1. Improve Eating Habits
If your child is overweight or obese, she doesn't need a crash diet. She needs an improved way of eating that she can sustain for years to come. And it will be easier for both her and you if you apply changes to the entire family's menu. Again, discuss your child's specific needs with her doctor; you may also receive a referral to a nutritionist. In many cases, kids are advised not to lose weight, but to avoid gaining more as their height catches up to their weight.
In general, move toward a diet that is lower in fat and empty calories, and rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, and whole grains. These offer much more bang for your calorie buck. Also beware of beverages. It's easy to rack up an unhealthy, unnecessary number of calories by drinking them (in soda or juice, for example; these also contain lots of sugar). Serve water and low- or non-fat milk instead.
- Why Kids Need Water
- Healthy Snacks
- Healthy Grocery Shopping List
- Understand Portion Control
- 20 Ways to Cut Fat in Cooking
- Common Tween-age Nutrition Mistakes
- Teen Diet Makeover
2. Increase Physical Activity
From the preschool years and on into adulthood, we all need at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. Don't be alarmed—those 60 minutes don't have to be consecutive. Short bursts of activity count toward the overall total.
And of course, active play and exercise have benefits far beyond weight loss or maintenance; physical activity can reduce stress, boost the immune system, and strengthen the heart and lungs along with muscles and bones.
- Fitness for Reluctant Kids
- Teach the Importance of Activity
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- Choose a Kids' Sports Program
- Get Started With a Family Fitness Plan
- 10 Ways to Make Fitness More Fun
- Best Kids' Toys for Active Play
- 22 Playful, Physical Outdoor Activities for Kids
- Set Limits on Screen Time
3. Boost Self-Esteem in Overweight Kids
Kids who are overweight often have low self-esteem, and the two conditions can combine to form a vicious cycle. So as you help your child make physical changes through diet and activity, also strive to build his emotional and psychological health.